Johnny Gaudreau, Flames hope layoff won't cool them down


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It's not completely clear what has gotten into the Calgary Flames, but they are currently enjoying their bye week sitting in second place in the Pacific Division with a seven-game winning streak under their belts. This same team, just a week before, wasn't even a wild card contender.

So what is it, exactly, that has caused this sudden surge of brilliance? There are a couple factors at work here.

For starters, the Flames appear to have remedied a long-standing problem that they have had between the pipes, and believe it or not, the swag in the crease is coming from a backup goalie. Enter David Rittich, whom Yardbarker pointed out back in December. The 25-year-old Czech has settled in quite nicely as Mike Smith's backup, creating a tandem in Calgary's net that has been needed for some time now. The undrafted free agent has been so good that he's expected to get even more play time down the stretch. Having a 2.03 goals-against average and only one regulation loss to your name will do that fora a netminder. Couple Rittich's numbers with Smith's very solid performance this season — 20-13 record with a 2.46 goals against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts — and Calgary has the type of stability in net right now few teams can match.

However, the most impressive part of the Flames' sudden success has, of course, been their offensive firepower, particularly from their top line. As SportsNet's Derek Wills points out, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau-led first line produced 25 points in five tilts as the team extended its winning streak to six games last week. Then, Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland notched three more points combined in the Flames' 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, Johnny Hockey leads the team in points, currently tied for second in the NHL in that category, trailing only Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, while Ferland is second on the team with 19 goals.

Sean Monahan has been pulling his weight plenty as well, going into the bye with a team-leading 21 goals and 21 assists on the stats sheet, sitting second in points on the team behind Gaudrea

The Flames have even been getting production from down the offensive lines — particularly Mikael Backlund, who led the charge on Friday against the Florida Panthers with a goal and two assists.

Are there worries about collecting rust after the five-day bye? Possibly, but when Johnny Hockey gets on a hot streak, he can stay that way for a nice, long stretch of time and take his teammates with him.

Calgary's winning ways should have the Flames feeling extra prepared for when they return from their break, because the upcoming schedule is not so kind. After kicking off their return hosting a tough Winnipeg Jets squad, they have tilts against Pacific Division big boys in the Kings and Golden Knights. Then, after wrapping up a back-to-back with the Chicago Blackhawks at the start of February, the Flames hit the road for an East Coast swing through New York and Boston.

Then again, Calgary defeated the East-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 last week, and as their recent run of success has shown, perhaps the Flames are now the tough competition the opposition has to worry about — not the other way around.

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Chelena Goldman grew up on a street where the boys played street hockey and yelling at baseball and football over the radio was a standard -- making life as a sports geek the perfect fit. She believes in dominance on the blue line, good red wine, and the theory that you can never be too overdressed for any occasion. You can find her gabbing away on Twitter at @ChelenaGoldman.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
31 SLIDES
Ranking every starting goalie in the NHL
QUIZ: Name every NHL player since 1998-99 to score 100 points in a season

Since the 1998-99 NHL season, 36 players have tallied 100 or more points in a season. How many can you name in six minutes?

Good luck!

CLUE: SEASON / TEAM / POINTS

Score:
0/36
Time:
6:00
16-17 / EDM / 100
Connor McDavid
15-16 / CHI / 106
Patrick Kane
13-14 / PIT / 104
Sidney Crosby
11-12 / PIT / 109
Evgeni Malkin
10-11 / VAN / 104
Daniel Sedin
09-10 / VAN / 112
Henrik Sedin
09-10 / PIT / 109
Sidney Crosby
09-10 / WAS / 109
Alexander Ovechkin
09-10 / WAS / 101
Nicklas Backstrom
08-09 / PIT / 113
Evgeni Malkin
08-09 / WAS / 110
Alexander Ovechkin
08-09 / PIT / 103
Sidney Crosby
07-08 / WAS / 112
Alexander Ovechkin
07-08 / PIT / 106
Evgeni Malkin
06-07 / PIT / 120
Sidney Crosby
06-07 / SJ / 114
Joe Thornton
06-07 / TB / 108
Vincent Lecavalier
06-07 / OTT / 105
Dany Heatley
06-07 / TB / 102
Martin St. Louis
06-07 / COL / 100
Joe Sakic
06-07 / ATL / 100
Marian Hossa
05-06 / 2TM / 125
Joe Thornton
05-06 / NYR / 123
Jaromir Jagr
05-06 / WAS / 106
Alexander Ovechkin
05-06 / OTT / 103
Daniel Alfredsson
05-06 / OTT / 103
Dany Heatley
05-06 / PIT / 102
Sidney Crosby
05-06 / CAR / 100
Eric Staal
02-03 / COL / 106
Peter Forsberg
02-03 / VAN / 104
Markus Naslund
02-03 / BOS / 101
Joe Thornton
00-01 / PIT / 121
Jaromir Jagr
00-01 / COL / 118
Joe Sakic
98-99 / PIT / 127
Jaromir Jagr
98-99 / ANA / 107
Teemu Selanne
98-99 / ANA / 101
Paul Kariya
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You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

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